SeaWorld's Hashtag Disaster

Jonathan and Erik Bernstein crisis communications, crisis management, Crisis Prevention, Crisis Response, Erik Bernstein, Jonathan Bernstein, public relations, reputation management, social media Leave a Comment

Before you launch that “hot” new hashtag, stop and think about what could go wrong

What’s it going to take for people to learn that you can’t just slap up a hashtag and assume the outcome will be a positive one?

From huge organizations like McDonald’s and British Gas to celebs like Jenny McCarthy, we’ve seen attempted hashtag use result in disaster over and over again. Despite the many examples they had to learn from, the folks at SeaWorld went ahead and launched a campaign asking Twitter users to submit questions about their care of killer whales using the hashtag #AskSeaWorld.

Yes, really.

In what may be one of the stupidest marketing moves ever, the company, which has been facing a constant barrage of criticism since the release of Blackfish last year, somehow decided there wasn’t a great deal of risk involved in asking for open-ended public interaction with the entire Twitterverse. Well, it got interaction alright. Here are just a couple examples from the massive list of critical and downright antagonistic tweets:

Instead of quietly dropping the idea and sending whoever approved it to sit in a corner and think about what they’d done, SeaWorld did pretty much the worst thing possible in firing back with some seriously immature tweets of its own. Check ’em out:

Inviting discussion on a controversial issue then reacting as if critics had no right to participate when you’re hit with highly predictable responses…very mature, right?

SeaWorld clearly has blinders on when it comes to its stakeholders and public opinion in general, and unless it takes a long, hard look at the culture that’s fostered its ugly attitude we expect to see more trouble down the road.

Erik & Jonathan Bernstein

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